Local optometrist Dr. Laurie White recently returned from a trip to Honduras, but she wasn't on vacation, she was helping to provide eye care and glasses to the locals, many of whom had never had a proper eye care exam.
"This was my fourth trip to Honduras, and my 11th trip total," White said, "I am involved with a program called VOSH, and have been taking these trips since 1978 when I was in college."
VOSH stands for Voluntary Optometric Service to Humanity and White first got involved with the program thanks to her father, who is also an eye doctor. Now, she travels with her husband, Steve, and two of her daughters, Erin and Elizabeth.
"I think I get as much out of these experiences as the locals do," White said. "It's really an eye-opening experience to see how these people live and what they have to do to survive. And, of course, it's really rewarding to be able to give them a better life with such a small change."
Several months before the trip, White and other doctors involved with VOSH collected glasses from their communities. All the glasses were given to the Lions Club, who them brought them to prisons to be cleaned, neutralized and categorized.
"Neutralizing just means that the prescriptions were figured out," White explained.
Over 4,000 pairs of glasses were collected and brought down to Tegucigalpa, the capitol of Honduras and where White spent most of her trip.
"We were surprised by this trip," White said. "We brought the prescriptions we thought would be most common based on past trips. But, as it turns out only about half the people needed those, the other half were the complete opposite!"
Because so many glasses were collected there were still plenty to give out to the Hondurans.
The VOSH group, which had about 20-30 people in it saw over 400 Hondurans during their week-long visit from March 8-15.
"There were several groups there when we went because of spring break," White said, "so it was a busy place. There were a lot of groups there building homes and doing other things to help the Hondurans."
Throughout the trip the Hondurans were all welcoming and friendly, something White wasn't exactly expecting based on their outward appearance.
"They are all so dirty and cover almost their whole body to protect against disease and dirt, you can barely even make out their faces. They just look menacing," White said. "But, eye-care isn't something intrusive for them. It's not something they could do themselves and it's a positive change for them. So, we never had any problems."
Language wasn't even a barrier as White and her daughter Elizabeth are both bilingual. Communicating with them in their own language also helped to put the Hondurans at ease and build trust.
Page 2 of 2 - White said she, and her whole family enjoys taking these trips.
"I just feel that through my work I have been given a gift to share with others," White said. "And to not share it would be a shame."
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